Britain needs better nuclear waste storage - report
LONDON - Britain must improve the way it stores radioactive nuclear waste and set up an independent body to deal with its long-term disposal, said the Royal Society, a leading scientific academy, last week.
In a report for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the society said the government and nuclear industry had concentrated on fighting public hostility and neglected developing up-to-date technologies for storing nuclear waste.
Britain\'s nuclear waste stockpile stands at 10,000 tonnes but is set to grow to 500,000 tonnes over the next century, even if no new power plants are built.
\"There has been a failure to recognise that the management, decommissioning and clean-up of radioactive waste require the same focus on research and technological innovation as the programme to develop the nuclear industry,\" Geoffrey Boulton, chairman of the Royal Society said in a statement.
Last week the government said Britain must invest in its ageing nuclear industry or it would fail to meet its target of cutting emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for causing climate change.
The Royal Society called for the creation of a Waste Management Commission to design a policy for long-term disposal of radioactive waste from the nuclear industry.
Michael Meacher, environment minister, launched a public consultation into nuclear waste storage in September but admitted it could be five years before a decision was taken.
The academy warned the government should not wait to tackle the problem until after it had decided whether to build new nuclear plants.
\"(However), any proposals for building new nuclear power stations would need to be accompanied by acceptable plans for both short-term and long-term disposal of the waste that will be produced,\" Boulton said.
He called for better collaboration between DEFRA and the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI).
Britain said in November it will set up a national body to take on most of the country\'s nuclear liabilities, such as the cost of decommissioning old plants and disposing of waste.
The liabilities from state-run nuclear facilities total 42 billion pounds.
Britain presently reprocesses some spent nuclear fuel but other radioactive waste is stored at power stations or at the Sellafield reprocessing plant.
A plan to store nuclear waste underground near Sellafield was blocked in 1997 after the local authority refused planning permission.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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